Universal optimistic despite economy's ups and downs By Kenneth Kiesnoski / December 19, 2008 Share 1 -- Room Key: Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal OrlandoAddress: 6300 Hollywood Way, Orlando, FL 32819Reservations: (888) 430-4999Phone: (407) 503-3000Fax: (407) 503-3010Web: www.loewshotels.comRooms/Suites: 1,000/51Facilities: Eight restaurants/eateries, club level, pool, volleyball/croquet, kids' club, gym, luau pavilion, business center, meetings/banquet spaceAmenities: 300-count linens; 32-inch, flat-panel TV; clock radio with iPod dock; Keurig coffeemaker; iron and ironing board; laptop safe; daily paperServices: Universal Express Ride Access; free bus, water taxi shuttle; priority seating at theme park restaurants; free room delivery of purchases; room key charging privilegesCiting Orlando's durability as a family destination and the appeal of a handful of new and pending attractions, officials at Universal Orlando Resort said 2009 and 2010 should be good years despite the uncertain economy. Still, they are planning to extend several existing promotional offers and roll out a brand-new one, to help ensure steady bookings.Early birds get wormClients who book a vacation package through Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations for 2009 enjoy the new Early Park Admission policy at Universal Studios Florida. Under the policy, guests booked on packages combining hotel and theme park admission will have access to three of the park's premier attractions one hour earlier each day than the general public.(In 2009, Universal Orlando will also offer its Stay Four, Play More promotion, whereby guests staying at least four nights at one of the three on-site Loews Hotels properties get two free, seven-day adult theme park passes, and its Eat Meals Deals, under which guests eat as much as they like for one price at select park food outlets.)The Early Park Admission promotion, available seven days a week from Jan. 1 to Dec. 21, will offer early access to the existing Shrek 4-D and Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast attractions as well as Universal Studios Florida's latest ride, the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit "multisensory roller coaster," upon its spring 2009 debut.Coasting through 2009The new ride will be "a great way to get a head start on all the day's excitement at Universal Studios," said Scott Zimmerman, senior manager of sales communication and product development at Universal Orlando.According to Universal Orlando, Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit will represent "high-tech, customizable, multisensory entertainment" and will be the world's most technologically advanced roller coaster.Traveling at speeds of up to 65 mph over track rising as high as 17 stories, the coaster will skirt the southern perimeter of Universal Studios, traveling from the Jimmy Neutron attraction, over the CityWalk lagoon and back.Riders will be able to customize their experience by choosing what song will play while they're on the coaster. LED boards in queue lines will display song options from five genres: classic rock, rap, country, pop and disco.When the ride is over, footage from the ride can be compiled into a take-home music video.Universal officials are hoping to duplicate the success of the Simpsons Ride, a popular new park attraction that debuted earlier this year. It is based on the long-running animated TV series.More on tapMeanwhile, ground has been broken at sister park Islands of Adventure on the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter "theme park within a theme park," to open sometime in 2010. The "fully immersive, themed land" will enable guests to visit locations found in the J.K. Rowling books and Warner Bros. films, including Hogsmeade village, the Forbidden Forest and Hogwarts castle.For more, call (407) 363-8000 or visit www.universalorlando.com. Loews, too, eagerly awaits new attractionsThe imminent debuts of a new high-tech roller coaster and a Harry Potter attraction at Universal Orlando Resort may have prospective visitors excited, but officials at Loews Hotels, which operates three themed, AAA Five Diamond resort hotels at the park, are feeling upbeat, as well."When Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit opens, the Universal parks and the three on-site hotels will be the primary beneficiaries [even though] it will help Orlando as a whole," said Jennifer Hodges, director of public relations at Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando.As Loews prepares to celebrate the 10th anniversary next year of the Italy-themed Portofino Bay Hotel, the oldest of its three on-site hotel properties, development of two planned properties at Universal is on hold. Loews Hotels also operates the Hard Rock Hotel and Polynesian-themed Royal Pacific Resort on the grounds of Universal Orlando.Although the first three resorts were completed on schedule, there's no construction schedule and no themes picked for the two Phase 2 hotels. However, "the day will come when there are five on-site hotels at Universal Orlando," said Hodges.That said, it's not as if time has stood still at Loews. The six-year-old Royal Pacific, youngest of the three hotels, recently received a $10 million room renovation that saw the debut of themed kids' suites. Kids' suites at the Royal Pacific Resort are inspired by the Jurassic Park section at Islands of Adventure. The dinosaur-themed suites, with separate bedrooms for parents and children, feature wall murals, artwork and furniture inspired by the "Jurassic Park" movies.Loews also recently converted six of 18 suites at Portofino Bay into Dr. Seuss-themed kids' suites. Upgrades included new duvets for beds; bamboo-patterned wall screens separating bathrooms from sleeping areas; sisal-style carpeting; rattan and cane features for headboards, night tables and dressers; granite-topped credenzas; and vintage-style travel posters.Occupancy at the Royal Pacific and Portofino Bay has benefitted from a high percentage of group business, according to Hodges. "Although 2009 is not going to be a normal year, we won't have those dramatic peaks and valleys some of our other competitors that are all leisure in the Orlando market have."For more, visit www.loewshotels.com or call (888) 430-4999. -- K.K.